and a strange kaleidoscope of images drifted through my mind as I fell asleep last night.
The day began with a service in church for the children from our church school - a first for me here, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Splendid Head has been off sick for 6 months, but returned to work at the start of this term 2 weeks ago, and he tells me that the mood of the children in collective worship has been slightly less openly responsive than it had been - but we both expect it to warm up rapidly. I used an idea from the excellent Barnabas site, which presents Ascension as being "Christmas backwards" and had lots of fun with children holding and re-arranging the letters as we talked about what the two festivals meant. Then I revisited the "hidden candle" idea from last year's Little Fishes, hiding the Paschal candle in the pulpit, discussing whether we knew it was there although none of us could see it, and then lighting a taper from it to prove that it still existed...It didn't help the next stage of the proceedings that the cross-draughts in church are such that the taper didn't survive my return to the head of the nave (Church in the valley uses strange oil filled pretend candles on the high altar for this very reason, but I'd forgotten this salient point because I didn't want it to be true...Does anyone else do that?!).Still we pretended, as I borrowed a light from one of the altar candles, that it was the real thing with which we then lit a candle for each class to take away to use in class worship as a reminder that they are now called to show Christ's light in themselves.
By the time I invited them to share the Peace with one another, the church was full of smiley and indeed shiney faces and when, predictably, we ended with "You shall go out with joy" I felt very much at home.
Later I was with the father and son I mentioned here. The mum's funeral was on Tuesday, a full chapel at the crematorium which reassured me that these two men, each mourning profoundly, are not as alone in their grief as they'd at first appeared. Today we buried J's ashes, and again there were good friends there, supporting them with the practicalities, present in comforting kindness which made my role so much easier too. Nonetheless, there's no getting round the fact that life for a man in his 80s with a disabled son is not going to be any kind of fun, so R & S are going to remain in my prayers for a long time yet.
In the evening came a Deanery Service here
I already know my new Area Dean, a real sweetie, from the "Fresh Expressions" group - and there seems to be a genuine friendship and humour about the place among my colleagues too, which augers well for the years ahead. There was lots of laughter as we robed, particularly as memories were shared about another priest, whose identity I never quite gathered. He, apparently, was the author of an amazing procession, which took up so little of the allotted hymn that, when his colleagues had made their way safely to their seats, he led the whole thing out again for another couple of circuits of the church. In revenge, when later he attempted to make a dignified exit for a comfort break, once again his colleagues followed in procession...
It may have been on the same Ascension Day, at another deanery service, that he ended his sermon (in the popular consciousness at least) with this profundity
"And remember. The last thing they saw of Jesus was his feet!"
I hope your day, too, began and ended with laughter!